Ocasio-Cortez takes down the machine
Jul 02, 2018 | 366 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A first-time candidate made national headlines last week when she unseated longtime incumbent Congressman Joseph Crowley in the Democratic Primary.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory even made its way into President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. Although, considering the president feels the need to tweet about even the most mundane minutiae, perhaps that’s not a very good benchmark.

It was the first time in a very long time that Crowley even had a primary opponent, and few gave the Bronx challenger much of a shot. Heck, even in a profile of Ocasio-Cortez in this newspaper, she shared some advice she received from a former elected official that a serious candidate for office needs to be committed to running at least three times.

It only took her one.

Apart from the national ramifications of Crowley’s loss, especially given that he was a high-profile member of Congress and widely believed to be the successor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, his defeat had even more of an impact in the local political landscape.

In addition to representing a portion of the borough in Congress, he is also the head of the Queens Democratic Party. Because of that, the race was billed as Ocasio-Cortez against the political machine.

We suppose there is some truth to that, but we think that the majority of people who voted for Ocasio-Cortez did so out of disgust for the direction the country is taking in Washington, as opposed to a vote against the local political establishment.

Heck, half the district is in the Bronx, so voters there could probably care less about Crowley’s side gig as party leader. Instead, as a longtime incumbent, he represented their dissatisfaction with the country’s political landscape.

But let’s examine the word “machine.” The Queens Democratic Party is far from the kingmaker that it was even ten years ago.

That was never more evident when some of their own members bucked party leadership and started voting with the Republicans in the State Senate as part of the Independent Democratic Conference.

If Crowley remains head of the party, which we can’t see how he does, it won't be relevant, or perhaps even beneficial, for interested candidates to seek the party’s blessing. What good is an endorsement from someone who can’t even keep their own seat?

But what exactly is wrong with having a strong and active political organization? We guess if the party stifles interested candidates – which to be fair the party is wont to do via costly legal challenges to ballot petitions – then yes, a strong political party is bad.

But if its role is to raise money and support candidates that share the party’s platform to defeat Republicans or any member of another political party, that seems like a worthwhile endeavor if you also share their viewpoints.

The real issue is the overwhelming role that money plays in modern-day politics.

Crowley represents the “machine” because he is the head of the Democratic Party in Queens, but he lost because he has held office for long enough to make an impact and people aren’t happy about the tenor in Washington.

Ocasio-Cortez’s victory didn’t signify the death of the “machine” – we would argue that it has been in a slow and steady decline for years now - but it did embolden other candidates.

Outside of Ocasio-Cortez herself, no one benefitted more from her victory than Cynthia Nixon, who now doesn’t seem like such a long shot to defeat Governor Andrew Cuomo if she can follow the same playbook on a slightly larger scale.

Ocasio-Cortez’s victory proves that there is a new demographic of engaged voters, and that’s true of both the left and right. Why do you think that so many GOP members of Congress are calling it quits when their terms are up?

It’s because they know that can’t pander to the increasingly vocal far-right element of the party that refuses to vote for moderates.

After Crowley’s defeat, a longtime member of the Republican Party in Queens told us the Democratic Party is in trouble, which is kind of a skewed viewpoint considering if the Queens GOP had any sort of functioning leadership they could run a serious candidate against Ocasio-Cortez in November and at least get some national headlines and show the nation there are Republicans who actually live in New York City.

But that isn't happening.

So we replied that it wasn’t the Democratic Party that was in trouble, it was anyone in any party who currently holds elected office.
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